Yesterday at 11 am I finished my latest rough draft. It’s not particularly long, clocking in at around 230 pages and it needs a lot of work but the first draft is done and now I have a foundation to build on. I started writing this manuscript at the start of June, just before my move to New Orleans and benefited from only working part time for the first half of it.
When I got down here though, everything changed. I couldn’t afford to spend my entire morning alternating between five page sprints and personal errands; I couldn’t write in consistent increments building towards large word count goals. I had to spend most of my day in an office or going to meetings. My writing was still a priority to me, but I had to find time to do it, I couldn’t build my day around it.
By the time I got down here I still had around 25k words left to write. Rather than hitting my 3-4k word count goals daily, I was hitting 1500 on two separate projects. Having to start and stop throughout the day, working in a couple hundred words during lunch or the hour I had at home before an evening networking event gave me the opportunity to hit smaller word count goals before the end of the night. The small windows of writing added up to anywhere from 1000-1500 words.
Late evenings were when I did the bulk of my work, usually ending the night with an additional 1000-2500 burst before going to bed. On off days I would get a little writing done in the morning but my top priority for mornings is the gym. It’s easy to find motivation to write after a long day; it’s not as easy to find the same motivation for fitness. The gym also helps me maintain a clear head throughout the day so I can balance my work life and my creative life.
It will be interesting to figure out my editing process down here. I expect most of my editing to be done late at night. It’s more difficult to start and stop editing than it is to write a first draft. Rough drafts have the benefit of building from scratch. If you only have ten minutes you can at the very least plan out a scene. Editing is a little more focused.
My tangible advice for anyone reading this and looking to pursue writing (or other creative endeavors) while working full time is this:
*Give yourself a daily goal. Not something to do all at once but a place to reach by the end of the day (or week if you work better with weekly goals).
*Don’t be afraid to be productive in small windows. 10 minutes may not feel like a long time but if you’re flexible and give yourself a specific assignment those 10 minutes can help build towards your daily goal.
*Don’t be afraid to ask for personal space. If you don’t have the luxury of having a quiet area, ask for one. Find a way to eliminate distractions so you can be productive.
*This is the last and least concrete piece of advice I have: Be flexible. Things will not always go according to plan but humans by nature can always find a way to adapt. It may not always be comfortable, but the time is there for you to take if you’re open to it. I heard Toni Morrison give a lecture at the end of 2017 and she spoke about how she started writing when she was working a traditional 9-5 job. She said she got most of her work done on the weekends and the pre-dawn hours of the day.
Time is a funny thing. Years go by in seconds, but you can stretch a few minutes a day into an entire book.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” –Mark Twain
Is perfection a detriment? The fear of putting out something less than perfect leaves a lot of 80-90% projects on the sideline. Though we all strive for 100% in school, haven’t you ever received a B and thought “Oh thank God!”
I went to a writing conference in Pittsburgh where indie authors talked about launching their own publishing career without traditional publishing houses. To say these men and women have won the game is putting it lightly. They write full time, they travel the world, and they’ve reached a point where they don’t just have to write for the market. They can develop any passion project they want and their fanbase will thank them for it.
The advice that really stood out to me at this conference was don’t be paralyzed by perfection and there is no such thing as a kiss of death in this industry. Obviously what they meant by the latter is there’s no kiss of death based on product alone. If you write a bust you can recover. If a pen name loses an audience you can launch another. It always will take hard work but the worst thing you can do is not produce.
Does this advice work? Let’s think about it, have you ever seen someone put out content constantly? Some of it is garbage and others hit home? Have you seen a YouTube star blow up out of nowhere, then go to their channel and see they have videos going back years and the first videos look like they were filmed on their laptop’s camera.
It all comes down to branding. Trial and error, finding the right audience and making content for them. In writing there’s this strategy called the first 1000 fans (or something like that). I know to the casual hobbyist or to someone new to writing that may seem like an overwhelming number to achieve but once you get your feet wet and start making your first connections you realize just how attainable it is. Why is this number relevant? Because it turns your brand into a self-sufficient vehicle. If you have 1000 fans (not subscribers or followers but actual fans who love your work and share your content) then you have the best marketing team in the world at your fingertips, ready to come to your support with every tweet, product launch, or publication.
You can only start building this audience when you have content to share, and if you wait until your content is perfect you will not have enough. I’m not saying to go out there and purposefully put out trash, but I can tell you from personal experience that people resonate with effort and authenticity. If they feel you’re genuinely trying to help them, entertain them, or relay a specific message it will resonate with some people, and those people will be the start of your fan base.
Now, I’m no expert, I’m just an author documenting his own efforts and sharing his story with others in case they want to try but I can tell you though I am not at 1000 fans the numbers are growing. Since that Pittsburgh conference I released an 82 page novella. I would’ve probably come up with some excuse not to release it before that event. Maybe send it to a second editor for more input, or try and bulk up the word count to make it an even 100 then hold off on the release until I had a supplemental reading to attach to it and build up some universe, all the while delaying the production of all my other manuscripts. But I took the advice they gave me, made a cover on my own for free and released it. Since then my goodreads numbers have grown, my amazon ranking has gone up, my subscriber count on my newsletter has gone up, and I’ve had a little more change in my pocket (I even treated my girlfriend to food with the royalties). Again nothing substantial, but progress. Tangible progress and the sort of affirmation that makes me want to continue down this path.
So here’s a challenge to anyone reading this. Take a chance and put out something new. It doesn’t have to be a book; it could be an article on here, a video on Instagram, a new feature on a website or a youtube channel. Anything authentic that maybe you’ve been too nervous to try. You might be surprised by the response you get.
I still need to come up with a good title for my reaper novella. The current working title is Big Boy. . . . . so yeah it needs some work. Especially now that the MC is thirteen and not eight, so calling him a big boy just feels kind of creepy.
I’ll start with the good news. I am ahead of schedule on the garden fantasy book. This is my fifth day of writing and I just hit the 18k word mark. It would be SO cool if I could hit the 20k word mark today, but I’m not gonna stress about it. I already hit my 3k minimum for the day so I’ll probably get in some much-deserved reading time. I’m currently beta reading the 2nd book in my friend Lauren Lee’s Demons of New York series.
The bad news is, not only do I need to come up with a title for my reaper tale (though I do have a cover and it looks pretty sick) but I’m running behind on my edit goals for it. As you can probably put together from the paragraph above, I’m running behind on edits because I’m running ahead on a rough draft. I’m doing my best not to stress about it, I don’t think the reaper tale requires any major changes, I just need to add a little more depth to each character so it’s more a tale of interesting characters than one of a pretty plot.
since I’ve proven I can’t effectively edit one project and write another at the same time, I’ll probably relieve the self-imposed stress I’m feeling and just focus on writing the rough draft first. It’s easier to take a break from editing than it is to take a break from a rough draft. One is all about objectivity and the other is all about momentum (at least for me).
At least I have a week before I move down to New Orleans for the summer and in that time I’ll probably crank out another 20k words, but ideally, I’d like to finish the rough draft by then.
Remember my summer goals: I want to publish two novellas and one full-length novel. I already published Third Life. My reaper tale will be my second novella (about 120-130 pages) and my full-length novel will either be my garden fantasy or Skipping Over Sundays.
All in all, I’m pretty optimistic about where I am right now.
As always thanks for reading.
I know 4000 words are nothing to some people, but it’s a fair amount for me. These past three days now my numbers have all been over 3000 words, and it hasn’t felt particularly demanding.
Today was a day off for me so I obviously had more free time than usual but this technique has worked for me in the past even when I work full time or go to school.
It’s nothing new or groundbreaking, all I’m doing is focusing 100% of my attention on writing for short bursts of time then rewarding myself with a brief break. I’ve discovered one good way to time your breaks is to watch a show on Netflix (preferably one of the sub 30-minute shows).
Rather than trying to present this as polished advice it would probably be more beneficial to just write out my day so you all can see what I did and if it would work for you.
I started my day with a baseline word count to give me a bit of a cushion: 1000 words. From there I rewarded myself with a 22 minute break and watched an episode of Death Note.
I wrote 600 words following that episode and repeated until I reached 3200. I then gave myself a longer break to finish some errands, get out of the house, feel like an actual human and when I returned I knocked out the final 800.
The reason I liked this approach so much is it’s quantity focused not time focused. It doesn’t matter how long or short it takes me to write those 500 words, it’s the goal I set and the goal I have to reach. The break is then time driven because 22 minutes is enough to recharge, get some coffee, and let ideas percolate.
Why I think this idea worked so well is that I never fully exhausted my mind or my imagination. The ideas were still flowing when I took my break so writing didn’t feel like a chore, it was something I was chomping at the bits to get back to.
Anyway, I hope this helped.
Thanks for reading.